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Hindu religious texts assigned Vaishyas to traditional roles in agriculture and cattle-rearing but over time they came to be landowners, traders and money-lenders. The Vaishyas, along with members of the Brahmin and Kshatriya varnas, claim "twice born" (dvija) status in Hindu theology. Indian traders were widely credited for the spread of Indian culture to regions as far as southeast Asia.
Historically, Vaishyas have been involved in roles other than their traditional pastoralism, trade and commerce. According to Ram Sharan Sharma, a historian, the Gupta Empire was a Vaishya dynasty that "may have appeared as a reaction against oppressive rulers".
The Vaishya community consist of several jāti or subcastes, notably the Agrawals, Barnwals, Gahois, Kasuadhans, Khandelwals, Lohanas and Maheshwaris of the north; Oswals, Roniaurs, the Arya Vaishyas,  of Tamil Nadu, the Vaishya Vanis of Konkan and Goa, and the Modh and Patidars of the west.
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- Madan, Gurmukh Ram (1979). Western Sociologists on Indian Society: Marx, Spencer, Weber, Durkheim, Pareto. Taylor & Francis. p. 112. ISBN 9780710087829.
- Embree, Ainslie Thomas; Gluck, Carol. Asia in western and world history. p. 361.
- Sharma, Ram Sharan (2003) . Early medieval Indian society: a study in feudalisation. Orient Blackswan. p. 69. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
- Bhanu, B. V.; Kulkarni, V. S. (2004). Singh, Kumar Suresh, ed. People of India: Maharashtra, Part One XXX. Mumbai: Popular Prakashan, for Anthropological Survey of India. p. 46. ISBN 81-7991-100-4. OCLC 58037479. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
- The New Wind: Changing Identities in South Asia - Google Books
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